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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
Copper nitrite reductase (CuNiR) is a copper enzyme that converts nitrite to nitric oxide and is an important part of the global nitrogen cycle in bacteria. The relatively simple CuHis3 binding site of the CuNiR active site has made it an enticing target for small molecule modeling and de novo protein design studies. We have previously reported symmetric CuNiR models within parallel three stranded coiled coil systems, with activities that span a range of three orders of magnitude. In this report, we investigate the same CuHis3 binding site within an antiparallel three helical bundle scaffold, which allows the design of asymmetric constructs. We determine that a simple CuHis3 binding site can be designed within this scaffold with enhanced activity relative to the comparable construct in parallel coiled coils. Incorporating more complex designs or repositioning this binding site can decrease this activity as much as 15 times. Comparing these constructs, we reaffirm a previous result in which a blue shift in the 1s to 4p transition energy determined by Cu(I) X-ray absorption spectroscopy is correlated with an enhanced activity within imidazole-based constructs. With this step and recent successful electron transfer site designs within this scaffold, we are one step closer to a fully functional de novo designed nitrite reductase.